Some people say you’re officially Israeli the moment you are handed a teudat zeut. Others claim it’s when you’re able to properly pronounce the reish and chet sounds. Maybe buying your first pair of Naot does the trick, or perhaps being Israeli is determined by how many times you honk from one intersection to the next. My journalism professor, however, has a different way of determining when that transition takes place. Her group of international college students chuckled after she said, “you know you’ve left America and become a real Israeli when you start reading the news more than celebrity gossip columns.” Initially, I didn’t realize how much truth there was to her joke. Now, it’s too true to be funny.
This recent addiction to the news could have developed because I’m majoring in communications and minoring in political science, but my professor’s comment has convinced me that I’ve probably just become more Israeli in nature. My values have shifted, what’s important to me has drastically changed, and any mention of celebrity drama is reciprocated with an immediate eye roll. There are terrorist attacks happening left and right, north to south, in the Galilee, Tel-Aviv, Gush Etzion, and Jerusalem. Not only are these attacks coming from every corner, but the target is any and all Israelis, be them 3 month old babies, prominent rabbinical figures, 26 year old South African immigrants, Druze police officers, or soldiers innocently traveling back to base. These incidents remain shocking because when we have a short period of quiet we forget that the threat is still there. We briefly put our guards down, and they come up with new methods of massacring us, methods we may not have expected. Stones, we’ve been hit with. Riots, we’ve cleaned up after. Sirens, we’ve heard. Rockets, we’ve intercepted. Wars, we’ve battled through. The other side has developed creative tactics in their mission to instill fear amongst the Jewish people. Who would have thought they’d drive into the light rail, run us over with speeding trucks, stab us in broad daylight at bustling train stations and bus junctions, burn our cars in hopes of lynching us, or shoot us from motorcycles in attempted assassinations? If nothing else, let us call it an Intifada so that this terrifying element of surprise can diminish, and we can begin taking the necessary precautions. Palestinians who carry out these attacks say their justification is to attain statehood, to get rid of the apparent occupation, or because there have been a few Jews who went up to the Temple Mount in recent weeks. Murder is not going to lead to statehood, take down security walls and remove soldiers from checkpoints, or prevent religious individuals from wanting to pray at the holiest Jewish sight. Haven’t Palestinians learned that martyrdom is not the way to gain the trust or sympathy of Israelis? Statistics prove that an increase in violent assaults by terrorists only results in Israelis becoming more hesitant to negotiate. Frankly, these vicious killing rants spread more animosity and make my desire to listen to the other side go from minimal to non-existent.
I was given my teudat zeut last February. I’ve been able to pronounce the reish and chet sounds correctly since I was a child. I bought my first pair of Naot a month ago, and the incessant honking barely phases me anymore. Yet these characteristics are not what make me feel like I am a piece of the great saga of Israeli history and peoplehood. Rather, my habit of relentlessly checking the news for updates, reconsidering my means of transportation but refusing to let myself feel trapped, and processing the anguish that accompanies this never ending conflict has somehow completed my transformation from LA Valley girl to Israeli sabra. Although I dread seeing articles about Iran’s leaders tweeting that the solution to Middle East tensions is the annihilation of the “Zionist regime,” pieces covering the multitude of daily terror attacks, or op-eds regarding the Temple Mount dispute, at least I deeply care about what I’m reading and feel proud to be constantly informed. Unlike celebrity gossip columns, Israeli newspaper headlines provide readers with a sense of purpose and ultimately make them part of the story. I have accepted that there will always be something important going on in this small land I now call home, and understanding that reality has made me a true Israeli, for better or worse.